Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Plastic Bottle Cap Madness, and a Bit About the Ocean

Part of what artists do is to see things from a different perspective, and then to help other people see things differently, too.

This bottle cap thing started out innocently enough. I started saving them because you couldn't recycle them curbside - even though we have a wonderful curbside recycling program here in Portland, Oregon. And they were interesting. It seemed like they had potential. Like they might make interesting jewelry . . . after all, they kind of looked like giant bezels . . . and so I made a couple of little necklaces.

And then, last fall, I started asking people to save bottle caps for me. My boyfriend. His dad. My best friend. And then I started washing them, so that I'd have clean ones to work with. I washed them in the washing machine. In lingerie bags.

I started hoarding them. I had a milk crate overflowing with plastic bottle caps when I finally hooked up with Leave No Plastic Behind , a local non-profit who was looking for artists. I told them about my hoard of plastics that couldn't be curbside recycled, and said that I was wanting to do some kind of art project with them.

This was a few weeks ago. And they said, "Sure! We need a big installation for an event coming up April 21st! Wanna do something for it?" And I said, "Sure!"

So, that's why, if you follow me on Twitter, my posts have been full of my tales of plastic bottle cap hunting and gathering, washing, and drilling. This weekend, I finally figured out a good way of connecting them - which, sadly, did not end up involving either dental floss or chicken wire.

Then I re-drilled a bunch of the bottle caps. And began connecting them. Tonight, I made it over to Keen headquarters and installed the piece - which felt sort of like a big "test run."

It was for an event co-sponsored by the Surfrider Organization, and featuring speakers from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation - those are the folks who made a raft out of plastic bottles and drifted from California to Hawaii, all the while studying the plastic debris that's building up in the ocean. Now, they're biking from Canada to Mexico spreading the news. Here's a great article that talks about Algalita's work. For example, I had no idea that fish at the bottom of the marine food chain were eating plastic.

And I had no idea that plastic bottle caps are one of the top ten items found during beach cleanups, and are second only to cigarette butts in terms of general litter. Which, frankly, just makes them all the more appealing as an art material. So, now I'm looking to make the piece even bigger for another exhibit in June - got any plastic bottle caps?

(yes, yes, I'll have pictures of the installation for you tomorrow).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

ArtFest Trade-O-Rama

A few of you may remember that I made ATC's for a pre-organized trade at ArtFest . . . I posted about that here. Well, here's the cool set of ATC's from other ArtFest attendees that I got in return! Check out the cool box that Bee Shay, the organizer, pulled together to display them - complete with encrusted octopus - the theme was sea life. I pulled out a few of my favorites . . .

I also had some little trades that I made up for spur-of-the-moment trading at ArtFest - all of them had buttons like the ones from my EyesAflame Etsy shop, and some had ATC's and some had Moo Cards. And here is some of the cool stuff I got in return!

A few ATC's, a bamboo pendant with an octopus on it, some random fibers, some Moo cards, a little booklet made from a recycled postcard, and a very cool little hanging.

It's made from driftwood, and it says "listen." Can you imagine makng 20+ of these for trade? Marvelous! I wish the artist had a blog I could link to!

Now, one trade I wanted but didn't get was a wonderful little booklet of octopus facts and matching octopus button . . . created by the marvelous Beenebag of betweenassignments.blogspot.com . . . so I sent her off an e-mail and a promise of a trade, and my octopi goodness should be in the mail!

Saturday at ArtFest: Captured Memory Boxes with Bee Shay

Saturday, I took a class from one of my favorite teachers, Bee Shay. We brought photos from home to incorporate into the piece. I brought several pictures with me, but ended up using this picture that I took in the Cinque Terre in Italy when the Sweetie and I were there in 2007. The trip has fond memories for me, and I love the colors and abstract shapes in the image - I've been wanting to do something with it for a long time!

We mounted the image on a wooden painting support that had a deep 2" cradle - like the one Bee Shay is painting in the picture below. The idea was to mount the photo on the front of the painting board and fill the back with tokens or objects that relate to the image . . . except all the tokens I brought with me related to the beaches of Oregon and Washington.

So I ended up focusing on the image and the quote inscribed around the edge - we did a marvelous series of things to distress the image, applying gesso, acrylic paint, colored pencil and even attacking the surface with sand paper.

I'm still interested in continuing to work the image - bringing more of the color out. I also want to incorporate some of the ephemera from my trip. My quote came out of some free-association writing I did around the image . . . "What we build and the places we call home travel with us, creating a map in our memory."

Here's another shot of the front of the piece and the back as they look now . . .

And here's a link to some images of Bee Shay's sample for the class - just so you can see the potential.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Friday at ArtFest: Abstraction

Friday, I took a class from Mary Beth Shaw in creating abstract images on Claybord. She's the one wearing the green apron in the photo above. She had cowboy boots, a great sense of humor, and a marvelous musical soundtrack for the class!

It's been a while since I've worked in pure color and form, and it was glorious and liberating. Usually, I'm really focused on representational images, though abstract color and form is always a part of the underlying structure.

Here's the start of the boards . . . dividing the space, collaging the surface,
scratching into it, coloring.

And here they are after layers and layers of color . . .

And here's another series of three that I started working on during the class. I don't know where it's going, but it's an interesting journey.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thursday at ArtFest: Nested Visions

I started this year's ArtFest experience with another mouthwatering breakfast at James House, "my" bed and breakfast here in Port Townsend (was that poached fruit in yogurt and berry sauce? with an individual quiche in a light-as-air pastry shell? Eeek!).

Then I moved on to a class called "Nested Visions" with mother-in-law/daughter-in-law art teaching team Marylin and Tracie Lyn Huskamp - two teachers who really need their own comedy show. Once again, I was blown away by how warm, relaxed and personable the teachers at ArtFest are . . . generally, the teachers who work the mixed media art retreat circuit are positive, supportive, and talented, but there is something about ArtFest (salt air?) that really seems to bring out the best in the instructors . . .

I didn't get a great shot of Marylin or Tracie Lyn, but I did get some good shots of my nests, made with horsehair, twigs, dog hair (brought by another participant), assorted foliage, and glue. Want details on how to make your own? I understand the ladies have a book coming out this fall called "Nature Inspired" that will give all the details . . . You know Ms. Crafty Manners doesn't like it when I kiss and tell on the blog.*

Don't they look real?!

I haven't had a chance to fully glue down the assemblage compositions yet, but am very excited about the juxtaposition of indoors/outdoors, security envelope window/house window, branch/bone, topo map/stamps . . . different ways we view the world, different ways we find security, different ways we navigate . . .

And this one is a heart and a feather and a nest perched on the cover of a dictionary . . . along with a little text. Who is it that weighs your heart against a feather to see which is lighter? The Egyptian god Ma'at? I'm definitely feeling a bit of weight lift . . .

*Note: While Ms. Crafty Manners is a big fan of sharing information and offering up free info on how to make things, she is not so keen on me sharing things taught by others as part of how they make their living . . . One of the ways that artists survive is by sharing their knowledge and receiving some kind of compensation for it. When I've paid for a class from a professional artist or crafter, I don't want to re-share information on a technique they've developed in such a way that it can be published or redistributed without their permission. Like, say, on a blog. I did find some cool things, though, when I entered "make bird nest" into Google search . . . including this quickie tutorial on making nests with plaster and hay and another set of tutorials on making a birds nest with bark-covered wire.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Making Time for Art

I'm getting ready to leave for ArtFest - tying up loose ends in the e-mail in-box, reviewing my supply lists, packing layers of clothing - and thanking heaven above for some serious artmaking time.

I have a huge studio and no children at home. Artmaking is the thing that keeps me grounded and healthy and happy and spiritually connected. Yes, I'm juggling several part-time jobs (or "gigs" as we largely self-employed types call them), but it doesn't seem like it should be all that difficult for me to set aside artmaking time at home. Especially since several of my gigs actually depend on me being a creative, productive artist. And yet that is exactly what I have been struggling with the past few months. It's felt like all the creative activity I have time or energy for is teaching, putting up a few Twitter posts and reading the occasional article. Of course, one of those articles was by Lesley Riley about, you guessed, making time for art (and of course, I Tweeted about it). It's all about putting artmaking as a priority in your life and acknowledging those little neglected blocks of time that you can dedicate to your art, to your own self, to your sweet journey and the intuitive inner voice.

You can read her article here. And I suggest you do it now. For yourself. While I take a few more millennia to integrate it and actually apply it in my life in a consistent way.

It's good sometimes to read someone else's eloquent description of all the things you already know. It's like a gentle reminder of who you really are. Now, I've got to go finish getting ready for my art jumpstart.